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Flu Vaccine Failing to Protect Elderly Residents

By Daniel Cherry | Published 22 Feb 2013 06:19pm | comments
This season's flu vaccine appears to be doing little to protect elderly residents from one of the worst and most dominate strains of the flu virus. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports, Mississippi has been one of the hardest hit states for the flu this year.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control says the flu vaccine is only 9 percent effective in those 65 and older. Dr. Skip Nolan is Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He says no one is quite sure why that is. 
"Something unusual has happened this year that vaccine protection was only about 9%, and that with the statistics out there means it didn't work at all in that group."
Earlier this year, Mississippi experienced a severe flu outbreak. Dr. Nolan says it's surprising to hear how poorly the vaccine is working for those 65 and older because health officials correctly predicted which strains of influenza would be prevalent. Nolan says some years officials get it wrong.
"In those years you expect that the vaccine is not going to be as effective, but this year was different because they projected correctly what (virus) would be circulating, but the vaccine just did not take the way it normally does."
But Mississippi health professionals still say flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent spreading of the virus. Dr. Thomas Dobbs, is State Epidemiologist with the Mississippi Department of Health. He recommends high risk residents get a heavy dose vaccine, which is more expensive, but better at blocking the flu. And as for this flu season, Dobbs says the worst is likely over, but anything can happen.
"It's hard to predict. Certainly in the past few weeks we've seen a decline in our flu-like activity, and so that's been certainly encouraging. It's hard to predict though. It could rebound or a new strain could erupt."
Health professionals say the flu vaccine has been saving lives for more than 3 decades, and despite the poor showing this year, residents can still trust flu shots.




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